Opinion

The Isawiyah Syndrome

The entrance to the Palestinian neighborhood of Isawiyah, July 2019.
אמיל סלמן

What’s happening in Isawiyah now contains everything, the entire landscape of our homeland. There’s the disregard of the main issue and the preoccupation with marginal ones, the abuse and the crimes of the occupation in the guise of protecting security, the belief that it’s possible to solve everything with force, and of course, further proof of apartheid in another Bantustan.

Isawiyah is the Hong Kong of the Israeli occupation, except minus the flourishing economy, needless to say. Just as Hong Kong is a “special administrative region” of the People’s Republic of China, Isawiyah is a special administrative region of the occupation.

It has relative freedoms that other subjects of the dictatorship can only dream about, including freedom of movement, social security benefits and legal residency, but only within the bounds set by the dictatorship. When the dictatorship thinks its residents have exceeded those bounds, it either threatens to act (in Hong Kong) or actually acts (in Isawiyah). Soon, delegations of Chinese experts will come to Isawiyah to learn about how to oppress a nation from Israel, a light unto the nations.

Isawiyah briefly entered the Israeli consciousness thanks to a television series in which it’s falsely presented as an area redolent of hatred and danger, and thanks to Nir Hasson’s article in Haaretz about the gun police planted in a resident’s home. What happened after that is typical.

>> Let the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah be | Editorial

The remnants of the Israeli conscience briefly roused from their slumber, but in their own way – in neutral, and with a role reversal. There were denunciations, steps, conclusions, an ouster, a petition, an apology, breast-beating. A façade of public shock over a crime of the occupation.

But the picture very quickly became clear: The victim became the accused; one of the guilty parties became the victim, and even the accuser; and the main culprits continued on their merry way as if nothing had happened.

The blame was cast on the production company, Koda Communications, and its founder, Ram Landes, was declared the occupier of Isawiyah. He ostensibly beat his breast while ignoring the direct victim, Samer Sleiman.

And then came the moving great awakening of the media guild, which was no longer willing to remain silent. About what? About the public broadcaster’s severing of its contract with Koda. Not about the abuse in Isawiyah, not about the behavior of the police’s special patrol unit. Only Koda interests the guild.

>> By planting gun for reality TV, Israel Police reveal truth about East Jerusalem | Analysis

People who never in their lives signed a petition about anything mobilized on behalf of Landes. The occupation of Isawiyah continues to bore them; its fate makes them yawn. Koda’s fate is what frightened them out of their apathy. The fact that the main culprits, the police’s Jerusalem District and those responsible for it, continue to do as they please without let or hindrance didn’t interest anyone.

On Wednesday, Hasson reported in Haaretz that the Jerusalem police’s abuse of Isawiyah residents continued this week, as they celebrated a Muslim holiday. There were violent raids on homes in the middle of the festive meal, for no reason, complete with shooting sponge-tipped bullets and an arrest for possession of a toy pistol.

The evidence planters – after all, those who planted the evidence on television also routinely do so far from the camera’s eye – are continuing their thuggish acts. And the “operation” they announced, which is nothing but abuse for the sake of abuse, and perhaps also for the sake of training or of glorifying the new district police chief, continues despite all the media reports.

Anyone who thought those reports would stop the police even for a moment has been proven wrong. The occupation long since lost all sense of shame. In the past, a scandal like this would have moderated the police, if only for a while. But there’s no longer any need for that.

In any case, the only protest was over the ouster of a television producer. Koda Communications was punished severely, but to date, none of the policemen who planted the evidence has even been investigated.

The village of Isawiyah lies at the foot of Hebrew University, Israel’s beacon of knowledge and progress. The university was never interested in what happened below it, as befits an ivory tower. And the village continues to be a victim of police brutality; its fate doesn’t interest anyone.

What the people of Hong Kong want is also what the people of Isawiyah want – freedom, equality and national identity. But neither the Chinese dictatorship nor the Israeli one will let that happen. The only difference between them is that nobody on earth claims China is a democracy.